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What is a D.O.?

Created date

September 22nd, 2009

If you see a doctor with a D.O. instead of an M.D. behind his or her name, what does that mean? D.O. stands for doctor of osteopathy. A doctor of osteopathy is a licensed physician who has trained at an osteopathic medical school, where, along with traditional medical training, he or she learns about the effects of body mechanics on health and disease processes. Doctors of osteopathy have the same licenses as medical doctors, must pass the same board exams, and fulfill the same educational and training requirements as an M.D. Currently there are over 60,000 doctors of osteopathy in the U.S. Historically, doctors of osteopathy emerged in America in the 1860s when few good medications were available. At that time, manipulations of bodily structures (similar to chiropractic treatments) were thought to be good treatment options for many health conditions. Today s osteopathic physicians may still use manipulations, but we also employ the same medications and diagnostic and treatment options as M.D.s, says Leslie Rigali, D.O. A philosophical difference Doctors of osteopathy have a unique philosophy about medicine, Rigali says. D.O.s look at someone s health as a whole, rather than just treating a specific health condition or problem. We also evaluate how someone s health affects other aspects of their life and daily functioning so we can work toward positive changes. D.O.s can be any specialty and go to any hospital that an M.D. does. Many D.O.s are attracted to geriatrics as a specialty because geriatricians have many of the same philosophies about medicine, Rigali says. Because an older adult s health care needs are often more complex than those of a younger person, D.O.s, like geriatricians, tend to spend more time with each patient. To learn more or to find a D.O. near you, contact the American Osteopathic Association at 1-800-621-1773 or go